Until my transfer to my present post last week, I was in the publicity business. In fact, have been so on an on-and-off basis for the past couple of years. I’ve been around long enough to know how exacting this work can be, a work which requires you to attend to every “impossible” request and massage the egos of some journalists whose egos are the size of the Millenium Dome. If you read The Devil Wears Prada, this is the media version.
On the other hand, what if the situation is reversed…if it’s the publicist sort of bullying you? Encountering a few “undesirables” lately in my work as a contributor for my former paper, I’ve come to the conclusion that some PRs are the biggest users and name-droppers on the planet. They also practice discrimination to the extreme, kissing the butts of the so-called bigshots while dismissing you because you just happen to be the writer and not the editor. Duh.
Let me cite a few examples:
1. PR#1, through an assistant editor, invites me to go to Baguio for the Panagbenga festival. I say yes and we coordinate for days on the phone. I simply requested that I be fetched near the place of my residence and since a friend who was coming along with me asked if her other friends could hitch a ride with us, I tell this to Ms. PR. She turned down the second request but we still manage to confirm our trip the next day at 6 a.m.
I wake up at quarter to five in the morning (!!!) and wait at the steps of Jollibee at 5:55 a.m. Alas, it’s 6:20 already and still no word from Ms. PR’s contingent. I text her and she replies that the driver with xxx car plate is gonna be there in a minute. 6:30 passes, then 6:40 and no sight of the car yet. At the stroke of 7 and no car yet, I walk out.
At 7:15 , Ms. PR rings me to say the driver is there but I text her that am not pushing through with the trip anymore because I have a huge headache and “please remember to be more punctual and professional next time.” Rather than say sorry, Ms. PR goes on the war path: ” My goodness, we did everything to give in to your requests (huh?). You can ask our close friends Editor so-and-so (who are also my friends) if we are unprofessional…” Her text message was more strongly worded than this but I couldn’t remember it at this point.
Of course I could have been more patient and pleasant if our appointment was 9 a.m. and you did not disturb my friggin’ sleep on a godawful hour. 60 minutes of wasted time is still 60 minutes of wasted time. And why raise hell when I did something you rightfully deserved? Jezzee Chrissee…
2. I liked PR#2 the first time I met her because of her schoolmarm/motherly image. But Ms. PR has an undesirable habit that I have not encountered in my 10 years or so of journalism: she wanted me to give her my finished article for review before I submit it to my editor for publication. I tell her I don’t do this but she tells me “well, so-and-so editor does it. We just don’t want our GM to be misquoted you know.”
I asked the editor she name-dropped if he did submit his article for review by this hotel (which is not even a major advertiser in our paper) and he flatly said no, of course not. I consult this with my editor and he told me, “pagbigyan mo na, kaibigan natin yan eh.” So I obeyed, even if it was beyond me to kowtow to the wishes of this PR whom I owed a buffet lunch I can very well afford.
I manage to write a glowing story about their establishment which appeared last Monday and guess what, Ms. PR does not even bother to text me a “thank you.”
3. And how about PR #3 who invited our section for a Tagaytay trip, along with 3 other editors from our same newspaper. After confirming, it turns out that Mr. PR runs out of accommodations and so strikes me out without the courtesy of informing me (or my editor whom he first invited) that we’ve been struck off his list.
Moral lesson for PRs:
1. Be punctual. It’s always a shame to let your invited press people come ahead of you.
2. Don’t name-drop. It’s a small world. We also know who you know and we could easily verify if you’re telling the truth or not.
3. Give it the human touch.Don’t just call the writer or editor when you need something from him. And don’t forget him the minute you extracted the necessary media mileage from him.
4. A simple thank you may be cheap, but for some people it’s priceless.
5. If you’re a secretary or driver thrust into the publicist position, bother to learn the tricks of the trade. Wag naman magkalat.
6. Ever heard of full-time journalists doubling as PRs? I give them credit for at least knowing the in’s and out’s of the business. However, if you’re a PR slash dyornalist, wag magmalinis at kutyain o ipahiya ang ibang PR kung media slut ka rin naman.